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SKA’s youngsters caught the eye again as a 7-4 win over Barys confirmed the Army Men a place in the playoffs. Ak Bars, meanwhile, needed a shoot-out to defeat Salavat Yulaev and hold on to first place in the Eastern Conference. Avangard is close behind in second; its 5-2 win over Sochi has the frontrunners level on 72 points. Sami Lepisto was the hero of Jokerit’s last-gasp win against Admiral after the defenseman tied the game at 3-3 with 26 seconds left then returned to get the winner in overtime. Brooks Macek became the KHL’s most effective German, scoring twice to go to 39 points for the season as Avtomobilist won 4-1 against Traktor. There were 3-0 wins from CSKA and Spartak, fellow Muscovites Dynamo got a 3-1 verdict.

Macek sets scoring record

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4 Traktor Chelyabinsk 1 (2-0, 0-1, 2-0)

Avtomobilist proved too strong for a Traktor team struggling at the foot of the Eastern Conference as Thursday’s program began with a comfortable home win in Yekaterinburg.

In the first period, Avtomobilist took control of the game thanks to two goals from Brooks Macek. The German international took his tally to 39 (20+19) points for season and established a new record for the most productive KHL season by a player from Germany. Felix Schutz previously tallied 38 points for Admiral in 2014.

Macek also has a Canadian passport, and it was another Canadian dual national, Belarusian international Nick Bailen, who got the only goal of second period. The Traktor defenseman got his chance after fine work from Lukas Sedlak and Tomas Hyka, the visitor’s Czech forwards, who extended their productive streaks to four and five games respectively.

But they couldn’t spark a fightback for Traktor. Instead, Avtomobilist extended its lead. Macek came close to getting his third of the night early in the frame, but in the end there were late goals from Alexei Vasilevsky and Geoff Platt to make the final score 4-1. This was Avto’s fifth win in sixth games; the Motormen move ever closer to a top-four finish in the East.

Sorokin blanks Loko

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 0 CSKA Moscow 3 (0-0, 0-1, 0-2)

Eighth-placed Lokomotiv entertained Western Conference leader CSKA in what could be a preview of a first-round playoff meeting. The teams had met twice before this season, with the Army Men winning both, but there was a stark contrast between the 5-2 success back in September and the shoot-out verdict just before the New Year.

Today’s game produced a scoreline reminiscent of the first encounter between the teams this season, but the balance of play told a different story. Ilya Sorokin was CSKA’s key player, making 31 saves to record his sixth shut-out of the season. He also moves level with Vasily Koshechkin in second place in the all-time KHL chart. The visitor never had things its own way but managed to break the deadlock just before the second intermission thanks to a goal from Maxim Shalunov.

The third period saw Lokomotiv push forward in search of a tying goal but could not take its chances. Sorokin’s best stop of the night came on the PK when Yegor Averin suddenly broke through one-on-one, only to be denied. Eventually the Railwaymen were undone at the other end. Anton Slepyshev’s one-timer made it 2-0 late in the game and an empty net tally from Shalunov gave him two goals and confirmed two points for his team.

Spartak outlasts Severstal

Spartak Moscow 3 Severstal Cherepovets 0 (0-0, 0-0, 3-0)

A third-period flourish saw Spartak claim the win over Severstal, bouncing back from Tuesday’s defeat in Minsk.

Photo: 23.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Spartak (Moscow) - Severstal (Cherepovets)

In the first two periods the Red-and-Whites had control of the game, but despite out-shooting the visitor 22-10 the home team had no goals to show for its efforts. Young goalie Dmitry Shugayev kept Severstal in the game, much to the frustration of the home crowd.

But the 21-year-old could not hold out forever. Artyom Fyodorov opened the scoring at the start of the third then added a penalty shot to take the game away from Severstal. Ansel Galimov, who began this season in Cherepovets, added a third in the 46th minute; three goals in less than five minutes put the result beyond doubt. Home goalie Nikita Bespalov made 12 further saves in the final stanza to secure his shut-out.

Ak Bars edges the latest Green Derby

Ak Bars Kazan 3 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 SO (0-0, 2-2, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Once again, these two Eastern Conference rivals produced an absorbing battle. For both teams, there was a lot at stake. In Ufa, a playoff place is far from certain and every point counts as Nikolai Tsulygin’s team looks to keep clear of the chasing pack. In Kazan, meanwhile, top spot in the East is the prize, with Dmitry Kvartalnov’s men facing a dogfight with Avangard to secure first place in the Conference.

Photo: 23.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

The home team had the better of the first period, but could not find the net. Worse, it went into the intermission a man down after Kristian Khenkel’s high stick late in the session. After the break, Salavat Yulaev duly took advantage, with Teemu Hartikainen opening the scoring.

Back came Ak Bars. A home power play saw Stanislav Galiyev tie the scores, then Albert Yarullin made it 2-1 just before the half-hour mark. But Ufa wasn’t done and Pavel Koledov’s goal sent the teams back to the locker rooms with the scores tied at 2-2.

A fast-paced third period saw the home team enjoy the better of the play but fail to find a winning goal. Overtime, too, could not separate the rivals and the shoot-out, like the game itself, ebbed and flowed. Salavat Yulaev led through Sakari Manninen, Galiyev tied it up with his team’s last chance and then sudden death saw Justin Azevedo decide it in Kazan’s favor.

Avangard hits back to down Sochi

Avangard Omsk 5 HC Sochi 2 (0-1, 1-1, 4-0)

Sochi blew a 2-0 lead and suffered a loss that dents its prospects of getting into the playoff places. With eighth-placed Lokomotiv losing today, a win for the Leopards would have cut the gap to six points, but defeat keeps the Southern team eight points adrift.

Photo: 23.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Avangard (Omsk) - HC Sochi (Sochi)

Avangard, meanwhile, keeps pace with Ak Bars at the top of the Eastern Conference after blasting four unanswered goals in the third period to turn this one around in emphatic fashion. The Hawks were in trouble midway through this game after goals from Vladislav Kaletnik and Nikita Tochitsky put the visitor up. At the other end, Ivan Nalimov was performing strongly against one of his former clubs and a frustrating evening was in the offing.

However, Roman Manukhov solved the goalie in the 34th minute and from that point on the balance of the game shifted. Avangard gained extra belief from the defenseman’s first tally of the campaign, and that paid off in the third period. Artyom Manukyan tied the scores in the 50th minute, the highly-rated youngster finding the net in only his second KHL appearance of the season.

Pavel Dedunov made it 3-2 in the 55th minute, assisted by Manukhov, and 30 seconds later Rob Klinkhammer added a fourth to put the game beyond Sochi. The visitor called a time-out but it was too late to change the momentum. Sergei Shumakov completed the scoring into the empty net.

Young guns impress as SKA books a playoff place

SKA St. Petersburg 7 Barys Nur-Sultan 4 (1-0, 2-3, 4-1)

SKA joins CSKA in confirming its playoff place thanks to this win and Sochi’s loss at Avangard. But the Petersburg team had to battle hard before overcoming a Barys side looking for a strong finish in the East.

Not for the first time this season, SKA’s youngsters were the talk of the tribunes. Ivan Morozov opened the scoring in the fourth minute off a feed from Kirill Marchenko, Vasily Podkolzin potted his second goal in successive games to tie it up at 3-3 and 22-year-old Vasily Glotov scored his second of the season in the second period.

However, Barys tested SKA in the middle frame, coming from behind twice and leading 3-2 at one point thanks to goals from Curtis Valk and Nikita Mikhailis (2). However, SKA found an extra gear in the final frame and two goals from Nail Yakupov, one from a penalty shot, and further tallies from Jori Lehtera and Andrei Kuzmenko secured a comfortable win.

Dynamo gets first win in four

Dynamo Moscow 3 Vityaz Moscow Region 1 (0-0, 1-0, 2-1)

Dynamo left it late to overcome Vityaz and snap its three-game losing streak. Vityaz, meanwhile, missed the chance to strengthen its position just inside the playoff places when it allowed two goals in the last four minutes and slipped to its third loss in four games.

After a goalless first period, the KHL’s leading scorer Vadim Shipachyov opened the scoring with a power play goal in the 25th minute. However, Vityaz responded early in the third when Quinton Howden tied the scores. It remained level until the 57th minute when Michal Cajkovsky grabbed what turned out to be the winning goal. Miks Indrasis sealed it with an empty-net effort, assisted by Shipachyov.

Lepisto’s late show sinks Admiral

Jokerit Helsinki 4 Admiral Vladivostok 3 OT (1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 1-0)

Jokerit grabbed an overtime victory at home to the Sailors, leaving Admiral ruing its inability to hold a lead. The visitor came here in search of points to increase the pressure on the teams in the Eastern Conference playoff places, and was 26 seconds away from leaving with the win in regulation.

However, Sami Lepisto shattered that scenario, tying the game in the last minute as he scored Jokerit’s third equalizer of the night. And the Finnish defenseman went on to grab that overtime winner, compounding the visitor’s woes.

Earlier, the teams traded goals. In the first period, Oleg Lomako put Admiral in front, but the lead lasted less than a minute before Mika Niemi tied the scores. The 31-year-old forward got his first goal of the season in his 27th game. The middle session followed a similar pattern, with Ivan Silayev restoring Admiral’s lead. This time, Peter Regin missed a great chance to tie it up almost immediately but found the target four minutes later while Adam Almqvist sat for slashing.

In the third, Markus Ljungh made it 3-2 to Admiral with 11 minutes left. This time, it looked like it would be enough for the visitor, but Lepisto’s later intervention changed all that.

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